Fly tying kit and wader questions

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jpjule

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Hey there all,

I have recently retired my ultra light rod & reel and moved on to a fly rod. I would like to get into tying my own flies and have been doing some research on tying starter kits. I'm hesitant to purchase one because I'm not sure about the quality of the tools that come with them. Many of the reviews I have read of even the higher end Orvis kits slam the quality of the vise and tools that come with them. Do you recomend buying a kit or should I buy the tools seperately? What vise would you buy? Also, what style waders do you prefer? Neoprene or breathable? Why? I'm done wet wading in the cold river water here in the north west. Any pointers or thoughts would be great. Thanks a ton.
 
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GungasUncle

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Waders: Breathables hands down. BTDT with the neoprenes - I have no plans to go back. I'm a Hodgeman fan myself.

Tying kits - some are good, some suck. I'm still using a vise that came with a kit I bought a decade ago - it's a crappy vise, for sure. It's almost worn out. Any vise in the $40 and up range will be fine unless you're planning to go whole-hog and start pumping out flies like a commercial tier. As much as I've love to have a Nor-Vise, I'm not really ready to drop the cash for one. If I were buying a new vice today, I'd probably look at an entry level rotary vise, just because they're nicer and makes tying a bit easier. You can get a decent rotary vise new for about $80.

Tools - you don't need super expensive tools, but I will recommend you spring for GOOD bobbins. The bobbin is the 2nd most important tying tool, next to your vise, and honestly, you can use a crappy vise and be OK, but crappy bobbins are just going to make you hate life after you've snapped the thread ten times on one fly.

You don't need a lot of tools to begin tying, a bare bones kit for me would include:

Four bobbins (one for thread, one for lead, one for wire, one for floss)
Pointed, sharp scissors
A 2nd set of scissors for general cutting, they don't have to be as nice as the first pair. Don't use your good scissors to cut wire.
1 bobbin threader
1 pack of sewing needles (to be used as dubbing picks, clean hook eyes of head cement or paint, etc)
Whip finish tool
Hackle pliars - rubber grippy pad type

As for materials you get in most kits - they're usually third-rate junk meant to tie flies that you probably won't use. There will of course be stuff for a few patterns you will, but it's probably a 50-50 proposition on that one.

I'd start off with a SHORT list of flies you know you want to tie, and just get the materials specific for those flies. That means get the recipes for the flies before you go shopping for materials. You can save some headache by limiting yourself to one thread color - I like black. Much like how women will go with a little black dress for most occasions, black 6/0 thread is the most useful thread there is.

Lets say you want to start tying up traditional Woolly Buggers, in say, black or olive. Get yourself a package of marabou (cheap, about $5, will tie hundreds and hundreds of flies), a couple cards of chenille (say, $3 a card on the high side, so $6 for two of them, will do a few dozen flies each), and lets say you go crazy and get yourself a hen cape, which is useful for more than just the buggers. That's probably $20 now. Then get yourself a 50 pack of Mustad 2XL shank streamer hooks in whatever size (I like #8 for a good all around size, but you could go with 6's and be just as good). That'll set you back $4 or 5 bucks or so. $2 for a spool of 6/0 waxed thread if you can't find it cheaper. So now, you're into it what, less than $40 in materials that will tie up probably at least 60 flies, if you don't waste a lot of chenille. That brings your per-fly cost down below a buck already, and with the hackle cape and the bag o' marabou, you're still golden for hundreds more flies - and after you've tied enough of those buggers, it'd be hard to tell your flies from the ones sold at the fly shop for $2 a piece.

Once you get the hang of basic fly construction, then you can go hog wild and buy materials because it looks cool, and start experimenting with patterns and creating your own flies.

One thing I'll recommend - get a good book or two on fly tying. It'll be worth every penny - especially one of the more modern books with step by step photo illustrations, pattern recipe lists, etc. You can also find these at the library, if you can't afford the books (they run about $30+ new at Powells on average)

Initial cost of getting in to fly tying is a bit high - but that's how fly fishing generally is, BUT the good news is that tools, vises, and gear is going up in quality, and generally coming down in price, or at least it's not going up in price much. Materials I've seen an increase over the years, but nothing bad. Material costs don't really get crazy until you look at the exotic stuff, or top shelf hackle capes. Some guys swear by the $100 a neck rooster capes - but I'm happy as a clam with my $30 cape. I don't think the fish can tell the difference, honestly.

Do yourself another favor - drop by River City in Tigard, and talk with Don the owner. He's a really good, honest guy, and he'll help you get started, and he won't rip you off. There's usually a bunch of guys sitting around the shop BS'ing and tying flies too - and if you ask, they're usually helpful and will show or tell you how to do something. Those guys always love to talk fishing and fly tying. The advice is worth every penny on the drive over there. Don has a huge selection of tying materials and tools and hooks, and he'll help you pick out what you need and let you know what you probably don't need if you let him know what your budget is.
 
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jpjule

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Thank you much for the advice GungasUncle. About the waders, why breathable? Don't you have to layer up quite a bit under them? Are they more resistant to wear? More comfortable? You seem dead set on the breathable and I am curious as to why. Thanks again for the info. Think I will skip the kits and just grab everything I need at a fly shop.
 
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GungasUncle

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The thing with breathables is they give you more options, and they're more comfortable to fish in for long days afield.

I wore neoprenes up until last season. Neoprenes are generally very huggy (at least every pair I've ever had) - and they're HOT. Even when winter fishing, I'd have to unroll them when I'd stop for a lunch break to dry myself out - as you get too warm in them, even in cold weather. Most spring through fall fishing days wearing neoprenes, I'd be drenched in sweat at the end of the day - and that's a nasty, nasty smell, not to mention it just feels ooky. The neoprenes are also more restrictive, movement wise.

I fished all last year in breathables - the range of motion compared to neoprenes is huge. I never once got over-heated, even fishing in the hot july and august sun, and I never had a day where I pealed my waders off only to find myself soaked from sweat.

While I've only got 1 season of use under my wader belt with the breathables, I'll never turn back. We'll see how the pair I have now - Hodgeman's entry level breathables - last compared to my neoprenes (which were also Hodgies) - durability wise. If you're careful about where you're stepping, and how you move through brush/rocks/timber - it shouldn't be too bad. I'm hard on my gear, but I'm also careful about how I move in them.

I mentioned that breathables give you options - they do, a lot. Neoprenes demanded light clothing underneath - usually polypro based clothing that would retain body heat and wick sweat away. Heavy clothing under neoprene just made it hard to move. With the breathables, I can go with just my normal cargo pants, or I can add a layer of long johns under my poly pros and be good. I fished every month of the winter season this year - and never once did I get so cold I had to get out of the water when I was wading - and all I was wearing under my breathables were some Columbia Sportswear cargos, and some Fruit of the Loom long johns. Didn't soak myself in sweat, didn't smell like the south end of a north bound mule when I took the waders off, and I didn't get hypothermia. I can wear jeans under my breathables if I want to - I usually don't, but I've done it a few times. Jeans under neoprene was just bad - I could barely move.

I'm not as tired at the end of a long day of hiking and fishing with the breathables as I was wearing neoprene, which is very nice.

I personally just don't see a reason to go back to neoprene, not with the availability of good breathable waders that cost about the same. Even 3mm neoprene is a lot heavier, and a lot hotter to wear, and 5mm neoprene almost feels like putting on one of the heavy bite suits guys who train attack dogs wear compared to the breathables.

It's totally a personal preference thing for me - and I held out for a long time on making the switch - breathables have been out for years and I was a hold out (mainly because my neoprenes were still going strong and I was too cheap to buy a pair of the new waders just to try them as an experiment). I finally wore out my neos last year, thus making it more reasonable in my head to make the jump to the new style waders. Glad I did!
 
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jimmy

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Flies. . . grab a bobbin, some yarn and a set of vice grips. . . and practice, you'll figure it out pretty quick. You'll want more stuff to tie with and want to spend a mint. Dont. Get some CHEAP hackle and keep tying. . . buy a pheasant tail and get some elk/deer hair from a friend and keep tying.

you'll decide when you need a vice and more tools when the addiction hits you,
and it probobly will, but, practice dosen't hurt and good tools will not make you
tie better at first. That will come with practice and experience.

Waders, if you got em.... keep em.
I like breathable cause of the comfort, a pair of sweats/johns in the winter, johns in the summer, stomping around in the water keeps me pretty warm and peeling off the breathers is pretty easy and comftorable any time of year as opposed to the 'wet-suit'.

try borrowing some of both. . .
find a friend w a vice and try it.
try on a friends breathable waders next trip.

I've done both for friend's of mine.
 
D

Dweller

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Beaverton, OR
Do yourself another favor - drop by River City in Tigard, and talk with Don the owner. He's a really good, honest guy, and he'll help you get started, and he won't rip you off. There's usually a bunch of guys sitting around the shop BS'ing and tying flies too - and if you ask, they're usually helpful and will show or tell you how to do something. Those guys always love to talk fishing and fly tying. The advice is worth every penny on the drive over there. Don has a huge selection of tying materials and tools and hooks, and he'll help you pick out what you need and let you know what you probably don't need if you let him know what your budget is.

+1 on the entire post, but wanted to highlight this in particular. Don saved me from myself when I first got into fly fishing and tying. I had these ideas in mind (from reading around on the web) that I should look for a Sage rod and a rotary vice. I imagine Sage makes a great rod, but you can get into something very nice for a LOT less money. Thanks to Don, I realized this before spending a whole lot more than I needed too. He also talked me out of a rotary vice until I had enough flies under my belt to KNOW I needed one. for the record, I am still on a Thompson A series. That one afternoon saved me potentially hundreds of $ and got me set up with some very nice gear.

Get a list together of what you want to tie and spend a little while with the guys at River City and you will come home with more knowledge and money in your pocket than if you had went it alone.

Thanks Don, and have fun jpjule!
 
Irishrover

Irishrover

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I'll be the odd man out on this with respect to the waders. I really like my neoprenes for winter cold water wading. I have breathables that come out in the spring and get a lot of use in Central Oregon. But for fishing that cold water Sandy River with the water coming off the snow fields of Mt Hood I go with neoprenes and felt pants. Last Friday I spent 11 hours in them and was darn glad I had them. I've tried the breathables in cold water and froze even with the sweats and felt. I guess it depends on the water you fish. The breathables do give you more ease of movement and I sure as heck would not wear the neoprenes in the summer. It's a personal choice thing.

As far as getting set up to tie flies or anthing else about fly fishing you'll ever need to know......pick up a copy of Curtis Creek Manifesto...by Sheridian Anderson. It cost about 9 bucks and can really get you going. BI Mart is a good place to pick one up or get a used on line at Amazon.
 
H

halibuthitman

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with the waders question I personally roll with both.. nothing is nicer in a driftboat in january than a nice set of neos, if your gonna trek go with the breathables, ive found you can safely go cheap with neos and get quite a bit of life out of them. regardless of material you will want a stocking foot wader, nothing has been invented to make those rubber boot hodgi's not freeze your damn feet off! I feel that breathables are much more prone to holes, going too cheap won't do you any favors, Simms makes a set of waders for $200 that ive wrung 3 years out of, ive switched to Filson waders and they rock, but the large pocket on the front catches the grips of oars too easy.. the flyshop.com has a set of store brand waders for $150 that feel like they cost $300.. frog togs also makes a wader that isn't bad for around a $100. as for neo waders, can't beat the price cabelas has, ive got 4 years on a $100 set of waders.. but if on small water my all time favorite is the breathable hip waders with a stocking foot... just adore them and use them in my drifter in the summer any time its warranted. As for tying flies, its a completely different art and craft and really has nothing to do with being a fly fisherman.. some folks are tyers and fishermen, some folks buy any fly they can.. and are fishermen, im the latter, but tie many flies out of neccesity or pickiness.. all my tools are cheap, and I have noticed only one thing.. cheap hackle pliers suck, I would pay $150 for a set of pliers if they actually worked well on all materials. Some of my bobbins are sticky on some spools, I just give em a little q-tip of remlube and they work just fine.. don't go cheap on hackle or hooks and you will be great in no time- Brad
 
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OnTheFly

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All valid information here and very close opinions. I bought my first set of waders back when I thought I would be spending the entire winter on the river and didn't want to be cold. They are (still have them) in line boot with felt soles, 5mil thick neoprene, LaCrosse chest waders. If I new then what I know now I would have chose differently. They didn't even need to be chest waders because you'd never be abe to enter the water past your waist. The 5mil material was so boyant that once you got into deeper water, you started to walk like you were on the moon! About all they're good for is wearing in a boat, like Halibuthitman mentioned, and being able to withstand very cold conditions without doing much hiking. But absolutely hands down comfort and warmth for winter fishing IMO would be to wear polypropylene thermals under fleece sweats with breathables. I have stood in winter water for hours this way perfectly warm and felt like I was fishing in pajamas all day.

Fly tying tools? Good quality starter kits are ok but be warned, fly tying is addicting and you may get hooked on it (pun) so take it from a guy who makes a living using hand tools and get some good stuff. There's nothing like good quality tools to make your life easier.

Dr.Slick tools are great. My fine point scissors even have a wire cutter at the base near the hinge.

Have more than just one bobbin to keep from changing spools all the time. Having to suck thread through the stem more than once an evening is too many times. The ones with ceramic tips are really nice. Oh yeah, and for tying thread, UniThread is the best. The others are junk.

A base mounted rotary vice is key.
 
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GDBrown

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I'll add my two cents also. This is my first year using breathable wader and I like what I'm experiencing. I have always had trouble with cold feet when wading winter or summer and I recently found that you can buy some toe warmers. They are chemically activated when exposed to oxygen and last for at least 4 hours or more. I used neoprene waders for years and agree that they are great in a boat when you need the insulation. Since I'm not as tall as OTF I do get in up to my waist almost every time I go. It helps cool me down in the summer.

As for tying equipment, I'll OFFer this suggestion. Buy an inexpensive kit or find something on Craigslist until you decide if it is something you really want to do. If you like it then spring for the really good stuff. Maybe there is an OFF member who will let you barrow a vise and some tools to try for a few weeks. I will agree with HHM that buying the best hackle feathers is the only way to go. I bought three capes about thirty years ago and still have some left. Although I haven't tied much in years. Good luck and welcome to the dark side......

GD
 
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jpjule

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I've got to thank you all again for the great info. I picked up some breathables a week ago and have put them to use twice. So far so good with them. Love the ease of movement. With a few layers underneath I was as warm as can be. I haven't hit the fly shop yet for the tying gear but plan to in the next few weeks. My better half monitors the angling expenses! I can't wait to start tying. Been watching Oliver Edwards vids over and over for weeks now. Hooked before tying a single fly. If any of you are in the Portland area and have an old vice or tools you want to sell or just want to get a line wet let me know. I'm looking to learn as much as possible. C'mon trout season.
 
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OnTheFly

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I've got to thank you all again for the great info. I picked up some breathables a week ago and have put them to use twice. So far so good with them. Love the ease of movement. With a few layers underneath I was as warm as can be. I haven't hit the fly shop yet for the tying gear but plan to in the next few weeks. My better half monitors the angling expenses! I can't wait to start tying. Been watching Oliver Edwards vids over and over for weeks now. Hooked before tying a single fly. If any of you are in the Portland area and have an old vice or tools you want to sell or just want to get a line wet let me know. I'm looking to learn as much as possible. C'mon trout season.

Another good thing you can do regarding fly tying instruction is Youtube. For example: in the search box on Youtube type 'How to tie a Gold rib hare ear' or adams etc. Then save in your favorites for future references.
 
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